W3C

First impressions

You only have first impressions once. Last week was my chance. Here are some highlights. I’m sure we’ll revisit these over time.

Positive things that were as expected

For me, a major attraction to come to W3C is its reputation and success as a trusted custodian for an open web. Accordingly, I was pleased to see certain expectations met:

  • The professionalism of W3C staff and the W3C process.
  • The high regard that our industry has for W3C.
  • The strong endorsement of some of W3C policies such as the royalty free patent policy. Even companies with massive patent portfolios see the value of making the core Web infrastructure a patent royalty-free zone.
  • The commitment to openness and transparency

Items that were better than expected

Through the years I’ve heard people propose improvements for W3C. While problems are known – and they came up quite clearly during the interview process – I candidly did not know whether the stakeholders of W3C were committed only to complain, or were passionate about supporting change to address issues. Although I came in not knowing how people would react, I was very encouraged by:

  • The degree to which W3C stakeholders are looking for greater agility: staff, members, public.
  • The extent to which stakeholders want W3C to become more influential – by helping advance a variety of web standards at a more rapid pace.
  • The number of people who reached out to me personally to provide wishes that I strengthen the organization (together with disparate ideas on how to do so).

Issues that (unfortunately) were as expected

Our environment provides challenges. At the financial level there are the impacts of the economy and at the technical level there are issues of fragmentation due to parallel innovation. As a result, I was not surprised to see some issues, including:

  • The negative impact that mergers and acquisitions among members has on participation.
  • Areas of standardization with more than the usual level of controversy.

Items that were worse than expected

Every organization has its core constituency, and W3C is no different. Although W3C has worked hard to broaden its constituency, I was disappointed to see how much work was in front of us. Included in that is:

  • Under-representation from the developer community.
  • Lack of participation from parts of the developing world.

More broadly, there are many ideas on how to strengthen the organization (a good thing), but sparse staffing to pursue these ideas (a bad thing). Bridging this chasm needs to be a priority for me.

Learning is a spring-board to action

Clearly, it is my responsibility to lead the staff in addressing the items which need work. First, however, it is critical for me to get as complete a perspective as possible from as many stakeholders as possible. My objective is to strengthen W3C and I need both a firm grounding in current status and a rich understanding of how people would like it to evolve. People with opinions should feel free to post them here or send them via email.

One thought on “First impressions

    • Lack of participation from parts of the developing world.

    I’m glad you point this out. Just wonder what will be your solution on this.

    Another related issue I found is with the level of translation on the W3C site being far from sufficient. It’s basically due to lack of staffing, as you mentioned.

    I go for page-by-page translation. Namely, the number of pages with language content negotiation should be increasing, though gradually, and we need an established practice for that. This is like what Google does for their technical documents. A complete translation of the whole site is just not possible. (FYI, the well-known W3C validator is only in English)

    As another approach, we should write more machine-readable (and hence translatable) data and rely less on human language such as English. Web is with this approach and I am happy to know that you prefer blog over email, which does not have native hyperlink support. And I encourage you to write more Linked Data, in N3 perhaps.

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